February 4, 2010

Tahirih’s last day in Tehran …

[in 1852] Tahirih, who was among the few remaining Letters of the Living, was … being held captive in Tehran. A delegation of religious leaders, in a series of seven conferences, had questioned her thoroughly about the Bab and His Cause. Tahrirh, in her own compelling style, presented clear proofs that the Bab was, indeed, the promised Qa’im.[1] She related verses from the Koran [Qur’an] that supported her arguments, but grew steadily more impatient with the mullas' insistence on a literal interpretation of the sacred scriptures. Finally, frustrated with their limited understanding, Tahirih spoke bluntly to her interrogators: "Your reasoning is that of an ignorant and stupid child; how long will you cling to these follies and lies? When will you lift your eyes toward the Sun of Truth?"

The delegation proceeded to formally denounce Tahirih and to recommend she be sentenced to death. Because she was a woman and of renowned family, she remained confined in a room at the house of the mayor of Tehran.

During her time there, the wife of the mayor -- though not a Babi Herself -- had come to hold Tahirih in great esteem and became her devoted friend. One night Tahirih sent for the mayor's wife, who found her dressed in a gown of snow-white silk as though she were a bride about to be wed. The rich fragrance of the choicest perfume scented the air about her. When the mayor's wife expressed surprise at this, Tahirih replied, "I am preparing to meet my Beloved. . . . the hour when I shall be arrested and condemned to suffer martyrdom is fast approaching."

Her friend wept at the thought of so final a separation, but she listened closely as Tahirih confided her last wishes. She requested that her friend's son accompany her to the scene of her execution and that afterward her body be cast into a pit and covered with earth and stones. Finally Tahirih asked the mayor's wife to lock the door to her room sothat she might remain undisturbed in her final devotions.

With great sorrow her friend did as Tahirih bid her. Then the mayor's wife retired to her own room, where she lay upon her bed, sleepless and heartbroken to think of losing so precious a friend. In her room Tahirih awaited her final hour, wrapped in prayer and meditation. Four hours after sunset she was pacing and chanting melodiously a prayer whose words expressed both grief and triumph, when a knock was heard at the door of the house. They had come for Tahirih.

As she bid a final farewell, Tahirih placed in the hand of the mayor's wife a key to a small chest. It contained a few small tokens for her friend as a remembrance of her stay at that house? [2] “Whenever you open this chest and behold the things it contains," said Tahirih, "you will, I hope, remember me and rejoice in my gladness."

Then the beautiful Tahirih emerged from the safety of the mayor's house into the night, where she mounted the horse brought for her. With what agony of grief did her friend watch as Tahirih rode away, escorted by the mayor's son and the official attendants marching on each side of her, until she was swallowed at last by the dark.

They rode to a garden outside the city gates, where they found the executioner and his lieutenants engaged in drunken behavior. Tahirih gave a piece of fine silken cloth to the mayor's son. "I set aside, long ago, a silken kerchief which I hoped would be used for this purpose," she told him. "I deliver it into your hands and wish you to induce that dissolute drunkard to use it as a means whereby he can take my life."

"Interrupt not the gaiety of our festival!" shouted the executioner when the mayor's son approached him. Then he ordered his attendants to strangle Tahirih and throw her body into a pit. The mayor's son gave the kerchief to the attendants.

Before they carried out their orders of execution, Tahirih spoke with the same bold courage she had always shown. "You can kill me as soon as you like," she declared, "but you cannot stop the emancipation of women."

When the deed was done a gardener directed the mayor's son to a freshly dug well left unfinished. With the help of a few others, the mayor's son lowered Tahirih's body into the well and filled it with earth and stones as she had wished. Her noble spirit joined the heroic souls of the Bab and all those who had shed their life's blood in His path.

"O Tahirih! You are worth a thousand Nasiri'd-Din Shahs!" the well known

Turkish poet Sulayman N'Azim Bey would later lament.' But hers would not be the last Babi life to be sacrificed in Tehran. Many more would follow. 
(The Story of Baha’u’llah Promised One of All Religions, by Druzelle Cederquist)
[1] Qa'im: Literally ‘He Who Arises’: The Promised One of Shi’ih Islam. A reference to the Twelfth Imam, the Mihdi, who was to return in the fullness of time and bring a reign of righteousness to the world. The Bab declared Himself to be the Qa’im and the Gate to a greater Messenger, "Him Whom God shall make manifest"- Baha’u’llah.
[2] In the chest were found Tahirih's last few earthly possessions. The wife of the mayor recalled finding "a small vial of the choicest perfume, beside which lay a rosary, a coral necklace, and three rings, mounted with turquoise, cornelian [sic], and ruby stones" 
(Mahmud Khan-i-Kalantar quoted in Nabil, Dawn-Breakers).